An aortic aneurysm is a very serious and often deadly condition. In fact, an aortic aneurysm was the primary cause of 9,863 deaths in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The good news is that some people do survive an aortic aneurysm.
About Aortic Aneurysms
An aneurysm is a balloon-like bulge in a blood vessel. The aorta is the large artery that carries blood from your heart, through your chest and torso.
Aortic aneurysms can affect the body in two ways. In the first way, the force of the pumping blood splits the layers of the artery walls, which allows blood to leak in between the layers. Doctors refer to this as dissection.
Aortic aneurysms can also burst completely, which allows bleeding inside the body. Doctors refer to this as a rupture. Dissections and ruptures are the most common causes of death from an aortic aneurysm. Only about one in five people survive a ruptured aortic aneurysm, according to the National Library of Medicine.
There are two main types of aortic aneurysms: thoracic and abdominal. Thoracic aortic aneurysms affect the top section of the aorta that runs through your chest. Abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA) occur in the area of the aorta that passes through your abdomen.
Vein doctors can help you survive an aortic aneurysm. Venous surgeons provide two main treatments for aortic aneurysms – medicines and surgery. Medicines can reduce blood pressure and decrease your risk of an aortic aneurysm. Vein surgeons can perform surgery to repair or replace the affected section of the aorta.
One of the best ways to survive an aortic aneurysm is to avoid having one. Certain factors increase your risk of having an aortic aneurysm. Some of these risk factors, such as a family history of aortic aneurysms, are out of your control. A few diseases, such as Marfan syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, can also increase your risk of aneurysms of the aorta.
While you cannot completely prevent aortic aneurysms, you can reduce your risk for one. Certain unhealthy behaviors increase your risk of having an aortic aneurysm, which then increases your risk of dying from one. Tobacco use greatly increases your risk of having an aortic aneurysm, for example. In fact, people with a history of smoking are 3 to 5 times more likely to have an abdominal aortic aneurysm. High blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and hardening of the arteries are also risk factors.
Getting prompt treatment can help you survive. Symptoms of an aortic aneurysm include pain in your abdomen or back, passing out, clammy skin, nausea, and vomiting, fast heartbeat.
Detecting an aortic aneurysm early, before dissection or ruptures occur, can help you survive. Doctors often find aneurysms while performing tests on patients for other reasons. People age 65 to 75 undergo screening if they have a family history of the disease. Men who have ever smoked should also undergo screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm and thoracic aortic aneurysm. Doctors use imaging tests to detect AAA and other aortic aneurysms to help patients just like you survive an aortic aneurysm.